The Mother Next to Me

Not flesh of my flesh
Nor bone of my bone
but still Miraculously my own.

Never forget for a single minute
You grew not under my heart
but in it.

Fleur Conkling Heyliger

Now that she’s older, the moments come less often.  But last week,  in a Gothic style church with lovely stained glass windows, a pipe organ playing, and rows of very dignified looking college professors dressed in regalia it happened again.  My daughter’s  name had just been announced for the first of two academic awards she received that day.  As she strode to the front of the church beaming and proud,  my Mom heart did a familiar little jig.  I heard my girl described as a leader and as someone who is passionate about her studies and is always willing to help others.  Strong words.  Kind words.  Words that make a mother’s heart swell huge and broad and deep.

And then, as I’ve done many times before, I thought of the woman who gave birth to this daughter I’ve been blessed to raise to adulthood.  I thought of all the moments I’ve experienced with my girl and how much joy she has brought to my life.   Moments like the one I was having right then.

I am a mother in most of the ways that matter, most of the time.  It is easy for me to forget that there was someone who saw her, loved her, before I did.  We go through life together the way most mothers and daughters do until another shiny, golden moment happens and I find myself thinking of her birth mother again, wishing she could see her daughter on the especially scrapbook-worthy days when she sparkles and is happiest.    I pay close attention, conscious of the fact that  I am experiencing this for both of us.  I memorize the way our daughter’s face looks, storing the memory in the scrapbook of my soul, hoping there will be a day when I can sit next to her first mother and open it and thank her.

There will be more of these moments, I’m certain.  A college graduation, and someday a wedding to plan, too.  There will be babies who will call me Grandma.  All because a young woman thousands of miles and a childhood away was strong enough, kind enough, and brave enough to utter the most difficult word a mother can say.  Goodbye.

I whisper a prayer for her, wherever she is.  She is my hero.  Because of her courage, a daughter  who came to me, not through me,  is my greatest gift.